Florida House Tackles Growth Management, Election Reform, Pill Mills
Around the State
The Florida House met late into the evening Wednesday, setting the stage for a contentious debate Thursday on a growth management bill -- and tackling everything from prescription drug abuse and elections to port regulations and highway and road designations.
In the wide-ranging session, Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, took questions and amendments on the growth management reform bill that he and the leadership have championed. Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, gave notice to the House that he and other Democrats intended to attack the proposal Thursday.
“In a state where we have 1 million residential vacancies, the majority has decided that the best thing for Florida is to build more vacant homes, and increase urban sprawl,” said Randolph. “I offered three amendments to protect the requirement ensuring that local comprehensive plans, including schools, parks and roads, are adequate and available at the time new development is approved. The Republican majority voted down all three of these amendments.
“What’s even more ridiculous is that this Legislature has decided that the state will have no say in whether there are adequate schools to attend, roads to travel on or even parks for residents to enjoy. This bill specifically removed schools, transportation and parks from current Florida law,” added Randolph. “Let’s be clear: This bill does nothing for middle class Floridians. In fact, because developers will no longer have to pay for the impact of their projects, the cost of new schools, new roads and new parks will be shifted to Florida’s taxpayers. This bill will set our state back by 25 years and result in a tax increase for middle class Floridians.”
The House also set the stage for debating a bill Thursday aimed at pain clinics. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, had been a major bone of contention with the Senate and had been watered down, keeping the state prescription drug database despite initial plans in the House to scrap it.
Schenck, the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, guided the legislation through the amendment and questioning process.
The House tackled a host of other measures, passing road designations and unanimously backing a measure proposed by Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, that would reduce regulation on seaport projects -- a focus of the Sunshine State as the completion of the Panama Canal expansion project looms in three years.
“Florida’s economy cannot afford the growing regulatory burden on our seaports,” said Ray. “HB 399 provides a common-sense approach that appropriately balances regulatory relief with sound public policy, enabling Florida’s economic engines to build capacity, compete for international trade, grow jobs and service Florida’s growing population of consumers. This bill streamlines regulations without compromising the integrity of our natural resources that create a sustainable environment for our citizens.
“In addition, this legislation recognizes that investing in transportation infrastructure projects creates economic opportunities for Florida by expanding the state's role as a global hub for commerce and trade,” added Ray. “It sets up a strategic planning process for seaports in response to these opportunities.”
The House also readied for voting on election matters. Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, took a vast array of questions from Democrats on her proposal that would impact the summaries of proposed constitutional amendments facing voters at the ballot.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, offered his election reform proposal which could help set the stage for changing the 2012 presidential primary date, cut the time to petition for proposed Constitution amendments from four years to two, offer limitations on third-party groups from registering voters and making voters changing their address on Election Day use provisional ballots. With Rep. Jeff Clements, D-Lake Worth, holding a press conference earlier in the day with leaders from a range of originations including the state AFL-CIO and the Florida League of Women Voters opposing Baxley’s bill, Democrats bombarded Baxley with questions, setting the stage for a debate on the legislation on Thursday. Baxley took questions for more than an hour and a half before the amendment process started, setting the stage for what should be a contentious debate.
The House also passed a measure renaming portions of highways and roads after five police officers in the Tampa Bay area who were killed in the line of duty.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.